Lazy Eight

The lazy eight is a maneuver required for the Commercial Pilot certificate. The maneuver demonstrates mastery of the airplane in all three dimensions – pitch, bank, and yaw with smooth inputs and corrections.

My notes

  • This is a slow, but smooth maneuver – there are never rapid control inputs if done properly.
  • This is not a ground reference maneuver, so don’t do this as reference to a road or line below you (many of the videos make it seem like it is)
  • In SoCal, I try to put one of the mountains (10+ miles away to avoid parallax issues) off my wing in the direction I will start the maneuver.
  • You need to be able to visualize when you’ve reached the 45, 90, 135, and 180 degree points. 90 and 180 degree should be easy – point right in front of you and point off the opposite wing. For 45 and 135 they are roughly when the point comes into and goes out of easy view.
  • The max pitch up and max pitch down may not be the same
  • You need to find the roll and pitch rates that work for your airplane and speed – that takes experimentation.
  • I spend almost all of my time looking outside with occasional glances at instruments to confirm bank angle, speed, and altitude at different points.
  • Most pilots have a bias that will make them gain or lose some altitude with each 180 degree. Do three together and they’ll bust the altitude. A key skill is to see that trend and make little adjustments the next time (e.g. a little more pitch up or down).
  • Eventually, this becomes like dancing – it’s stilted and rough while you’re still thinking it over, but eventually becomes smooth as you feel your way through it

FAA Description (From AFH Chapter 9 – Performance Maneuvers)

Lazy eight diagram (AFH Figure 9-4)

The lazy eight is a maneuver that is designed to develop the proper coordination of the flight controls across a wide range of airspeeds and attitudes. It is the only standard flight training maneuver that, at no time, flight control pressures are constant. In an attempt to simplify the discussion about this maneuver, the lazy eight can be loosely described by the ground reference maneuver, S-turns across the road. Recall that S-turns across the road are made of opposing 180° turns. For example, first a 180° turn to the right, followed immediately by a 180° turn to the left. The lazy eight adds both a climb and descent to each 180° segment. The first 90° is a climb; the second 90° is a descent.

To aid in the performance of the lazy eight’s symmetrical climbing/descending turns, prominent reference points must be selected on the natural horizon. The reference points selected should be at 45°, 90°, and 135° from the direction in which the maneuver is started for each 180° turn. With the general concept of climbing and descending turns grasped, specifics of the lazy eight can then be discussed.

From level flight a gradual climbing turn is begun in the direction of the 45° reference point; the climbing turn should be planned and controlled so that the maximum pitch-up attitude is reached at the 45° point with an approximate bank angle of 15°. [Figure 9-4B] As the pitch attitude is raised, the airspeed decreases, which causes the rate of turn to increase. As such, the lazy eight must begin with a slow rate of roll as the combination of increasing pitch and increasing bank may cause the rate of turn to be so rapid that the 45° reference point will be reached before the highest pitch attitude is attained. At the 45° reference point, the pitch attitude should be at the maximum pitch-up selected for the maneuver while the bank angle is slowly increasing. Beyond the 45° reference point, the pitch-up attitude should begin to decrease slowly toward the horizon until the 90° reference point is reached where the pitch attitude should be momentarily level.

The lazy eight requires substantial skill in coordinating the aileron and rudder; therefore, some discussion about coordination is warranted. As pilots understand, the purpose of the rudder is to maintain coordination; slipping or skidding is to be avoided. Pilots should remember that since the airspeed is still decreasing as the airplane is climbing; additional right rudder pressure must be applied to counteract left turning tendencies, such as P-factor. As the airspeed decreases, right rudder pressure must be gradually applied to counteract yaw at the apex of the lazy eight in both the right and left turns; however, additional right rudder pressure is required when turning or rolling out to the right than left because left adverse yaw augments with the left yawing P-factor in an attempt to yaw the nose to the left. Correction is needed to prevent these additive left yawing moments from decreasing a right turn’s rate. In contrast, in left climbing turns or rolling to the left, the left yawing P-factor tends to cancel the effects of adverse yaw to the right; consequently, less right rudder pressure is required. These concepts can be difficult to remember; however, to simplify, rolling right at low airspeeds and high-power settings requires substantial right rudder pressures.

At the lazy eight’s 90° reference point, the bank angle should also have reached its maximum angle of approximately 30°. [Figure 9-4C] The airspeed should be at its minimum, just about 5 to 10 knots above stall speed, with the airplane’s pitch attitude passing through level flight. Coordinated flight at this point requires that, in some flight conditions, a slight amount of opposite aileron pressure may be required to prevent the wings from overbanking while maintaining rudder pressure to cancel the effects of left turning tendencies.

The pilot should not hesitate at the 90° point but should continue to maneuver the airplane into a descending turn. The rollout from the bank should proceed slowly while the airplane’s pitch attitude is allowed to decrease. When the airplane has turned 135°, the airplane should be in 9-8 its lowest pitch attitude. [Figure 9-4D] Pilots should remember that the airplane’s airspeed is increasing as the airplane’s pitch attitude decreases; therefore, to maintain proper coordination will require a decrease in right rudder pressure. As the airplane approaches the 180° point, it is necessary to progressively relax rudder and aileron pressure while simultaneously raising pitch and roll to level flight. As the rollout is being accomplished, the pilot should note the amount of turn remaining and adjust the rate of rollout and pitch change so that the wings and nose are level at the original airspeed just as the 180° point is reached.

Upon arriving at 180° point, a climbing turn should be started immediately in the opposite direction toward the preselected reference points to complete the second half of the lazy eight in the same manner as the first half. [Figure 9-4E]

Power should be set so as not to enter the maneuver at an airspeed that would exceed manufacturer’s recommendations, which is generally no greater than VA. Power and bank angle have significant effect on the altitude gained or lost; if excess power is used for a given bank angle, altitude is gained at the completion of the maneuver; however, if insufficient power is used for a given bank angle, altitude is lost.

Common errors when performing lazy eights are:

  • Not clearing the area
  • Maneuver is not symmetrical across each 180°
  • Inadequate or improper selection or use of 45°, 90°, 135° references
  • Ineffective planning
  • Gain or loss of altitude at each 180° point
  • Poor control at the top of each climb segment resulting in the pitch rapidly falling through the horizon
  • Airspeed or bank angle standards not met
  • Control roughness
  • Poor flight control coordination
  • Stalling at any point during the maneuver
  • Execution of a steep turn instead of a climbing maneuver
  • Not scanning for other traffic during the maneuver
  • Performing by reference to the flight instrument rather than visual references

Standard (from Commercial Pilot ACS)

Other references

Sporty’s (includes video)

MzeroA (includes video)

Who else has a good write-up or video on the maneuver? Any feedback on my notes or the videos I’ve linked to? Hit the comments below.